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Physics Major - Teaching Outlook?

  1. May 30, 2012 #1
    Hello PF!

    I just finished my freshman year at my local CC majoring in physics. I did not chose to major in physics to become a theoretical physicist, esteemed professor, or the next Einstein. I chose to major in physics because I want to teach kids about science and the universe around us.

    I'm on track to pursue a degree for my local university (where I will be transferring - most likely) in physics with additional breadth in chemistry, geology, and biology. This option that my local Uni. has set up for physics majors is solely intended for students who intend to teach high school as it fulfills the california single subject teaching credential with a concentration in physics and a supplementary science.

    This option is also for students looking to pursue graduate degrees in physics-interdisciplinary branches which I'm also stoked about because I was hoping to obtain a graduate degree in geology/geophysics. Just a little aside.

    However, I still have questions for the science teaching community here on PF. Would this integrated science program with a concentration in physics be better than a degree in pure physics to teach the sciences at the high school level?

    Also, to any physics/science teachers teaching high school, does anyone have any advice on pursuing a career in teaching and the outlook for science/physics teachers?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2012 #2
    Things vary according to location. In my rural upstate New York area, the easiest way to get a job teaching high school physics is to be legally certified in both physics and chemistry. In N.Y. that means that you took a minimum of 18 college credits in each science, in addition to 30 credits in secondary education, which includes 16 weeks of student teaching. Colleges that have teacher training programs know the local rules.
  4. Jul 20, 2012 #3
    I went through a BS in Physics and then got my masters on the way toward a PhD. Decided that I did not want to be a research Physicist, nor teach at a non-research University. So High School looked like the right road for me.

    I dropped from the PhD program and swapped over to education. I only encountered one person there who was working on a Physics Education program. I can tell you that what he understood about physics was absolutely laughable to me. Basically he knew everything I intended to ensure graduating seniors knew, and all he had left were courses on how to be a teacher. He was done with everything he needed about science.

    You absolutely MUST know more than your students, and you will have some exceptionally bright students if you teach long enough. So getting some post-graduate physics courses under your belt is highly advised. At the VERY least, be certain you take calculus based physics courses and labs though.

    In this area (US Northwest) there is a considerable lack of physics/science teachers. But most places seem interested in general science teachers, instead of specific subjects, due to being understaffed.

    So you have a choice to make: get certified for Physics specifically and nothing else (this means a possibly harder time finding a job), or certify for general science, or multiple scientific fields (this means easier time finding a job, but a possibility that you wind up NOT teaching physics).

    My own choice had been to certify for Physics and Math specifically, and also to pick up a general science certification that I wouldn't put on my resume until I started to become desperate. In the end however, a job opened up at the university before I finished my certification which fit me even better than teaching high school.
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